STEP Program has aided Nebraska small businesses in opening up overseas markets
LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director (DED) Courtney Dentlinger joined Nebraska small business owners and representatives of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to highlight the success of the State Trade and Export Program (STEP) grant program in Nebraska.
“The global economy is becoming increasingly important to the success of small businesses in our state,” said Governor Ricketts. “By building trade relationships with countries around the world, our businesses can grow at home, create good-paying jobs in their communities, and Grow Nebraska.”
This marks the fourth year that DED has received the grants. During the past three years, Nebraska’s STEP Grant has assisted 62 small businesses with 280 unique activities, generating more than $30 million in increased exports. In 2013, more than 1,500 Nebraska small businesses exported goods valued at $1.8 billion.
“Many small Nebraska businesses that have used the STEP Grant have also used other resources, including the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Omaha, the University of Nebraska, and our trade offices in Japan and China. Company executives also regularly participate in Governor-led trade missions abroad,” said Director Dentlinger. “The STEP grant has been a great way for us to establish relationships with small business exporters and make them aware of the tremendous international business programs and services available through DED’s international team.”
At this morning’s event, Governor Pete Ricketts, DED Director Courtney Dentlinger, and SBA Regional Administrator Patricia Brown-Dixon announced a $300,570 STEP grant to continue encouraging small business exports from Nebraska.
“SBA’s STEP program, now in its fourth year, provides financial awards to state and territory governments to assist small business with export development,” said Administrator Brown-Dixon. “The STEP program’s mission is to increase the number of U.S. small business exporters and increase their export sales to the 95% of the world’s consumers located outside the United States. This program leverages the resources available to Nebraska small businesses from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.”
At the reception, several Nebraska business representatives from companies, which participated in the program over the past few years, shared their success stories. These include Jeremy Baker, Director of Business Development for Oxbow Animal Health in Murdock; Pete Stout, Sales Manager for Marshall Engines in Kearney; and Chris Righter, New Business Development Manager for RD Industries in Omaha. Oxbow Animal Health, Marshall Engines, and RD Industries have all used the STEP grant during the past two years.
Jeremy Baker of Oxbow Animal Health shared how their company has seen their international sales steadily climb since 1998 when the company first launched its products globally. He attributes a lion’s share of this to the company taking advantage of key state resources, including the STEP grant and the Nebraska Center Japan in Yokohama, Japan.
The STEP grant and the Nebraska Center Japan helped Oxbow translate marketing materials that target Japanese customers, conduct market visits, form a strategic plan for doing business in Japan, and negotiate distribution agreements.
These efforts, said Baker, contributed to a 92% increase in sales in Japan following the signing of a new distribution agreement. Furthermore, the STEP grant opened up opportunities for Oxbow in Greece, where the company conducted seminars for top veterinarians, and developed customized marketing pieces, resulting in a 128% sales increase in the country.
For more than five years, Marshall Engines has enlisted help from DED and the U.S. Commercial Service for building its sales program; expanding distribution and increasing international sales of its BluePrint Engines, part of its Performance Engine product line; and helping pioneer new market shares for its industrial engine product line Origin Engines.
“DED has assisted our company with exhibitions at international trade shows, translation of sales and engineering documents, international travel subsidies, and sales initiatives with U.S. Commercial Service through the IPS and Gold Key programs,” said Stout. “Without DED’s cooperation, we wouldn’t have been able to realize any of this. Through these activities, we have signed new distribution accounts, increased export sales, and laid the foundation for increased exports for years to come.”
The numbers back up the these stories of success from STEP program recipients. Recipients in the first two rounds of STEP awards, in FY2011 and FY2012, reported a strong return on investment of over 19 to 1.
To learn more about the STEP program guidelines, to submit an application, or to learn more about DED’s international trade programming, Nebraskans can contact Susan Rouch, Grant Administrator, at 800-426-6505, 402-471-4668, or firstname.lastname@example.org
About the STEP Program
Small businesses wanting to increase the value of their current exports, or start exporting products for the first time can now apply for grants through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s (DED) International Market Access Grant (IMAG) program. DED has been awarded $300,570 from the Small Business Administration’s State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program to help small businesses defray costs incurred when accessing international markets.